Carb Cycling 101

Last Updated on January 20, 2023 by Ellen Christian

If you’re wondering what carb cycling is, check out my tips for carb cycling for beginners. Learn more about varying your carb intake to improve fat loss.

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If you're wondering what carb cycling is, check out my tips for carb cycling for beginners. Learn more about varying your carb intake to improve fat loss.

Carb Cycling 101

For most of my life, I have gone up and down 20 pounds. I’ve lost weight with a variety of different diets from Weight Watchers to Paleo. But, I always gained the weight back again because I couldn’t give up my favorite foods forever.

Over the past few years, I managed to put on 20 pounds due to life, Covid, and menopause. I lacked energy and felt horrible. I hated the way I looked and how I felt.

Back in October, I was sent a Lumen to learn about how my body uses carbs. Check out my thoughts on burning fat vs. carbs. Save 10% on your Lumen with code ELLENBLOGS right here.

Basically, over the past 6 months, I learned that my body does not like too many carbs. Because my lifestyle is fairly sedentary, I never burned all the carbs I ate so my body stored them as fat. And, this caused weight gain.

Using Lumen so far, I have lost about 20 pounds. To visualize this, I have gone from wearing jeans that were 32W to jeans that are 28W. And, the 28W is starting to get too loose.

Lumen works by measuring your body's carbon dioxide concentration by breathing into a handheld Lumen device.

What is Lumen?

Lumen is a pocket-sized CO2 sensor and flow meter to figure out your body’s fuel source. It tells you if you’re burning fat, carbohydrates, or a combination! With the Lumen App, I can customize my meal plan and food choices based on readings from the Lumen so that it works best for me. 

Ideally, you will burn all of the carbs you eat (and then some if you need to lose weight). After your body burns the carbs you’ve eaten, it starts burning fat. This helps you lose bodyweight. If you never burn all the carbs you eat, you will not drop weight and you will probably gain weight.

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What is carb cycling?

So, what is carb cycling? Carb cycling is the strategic manipulation of carbohydrate intake to promote fat loss while maintaining muscle mass. This is usually done by alternating between high-carb and low-carb days, or by eating more carbs on training days and less on rest days.

There are a few different ways to approach carb cycling, but the basic idea is to cycle carbs in a way that best suits your individual needs and goals. For example, someone who’s trying to lose weight might want to stick to a mostly low-carb diet on weekdays, then have a higher-carb day on the weekend.

Meanwhile, someone who’s trying to maintain muscle mass might want to do the opposite – eat more carbs on weekdays to fuel their workouts, then cut back on carbs on the weekends.

No matter what your goals are, there’s a carb-cycling plan that can help you reach them.

a woman pouring peach jam salad dressing on her salad

What is low carb?

A low-carb diet is any diet that limits carbs, including sugar, starches, bread, pasta, cookies, crackers, chips, fruit, and starchy vegetables like potatoes.

Low-carb diets are popular for a variety of reasons. Some people find that they help with weight loss, blood sugar control, and energy levels. Others find that they help reduce inflammation, improve heart health, and stabilize blood sugar.

There are many different approaches to low-carb eating, and no one diet is right for everyone. The key is to find a plan that works for you and your individual needs.

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What is high carb?

A high-carb diet is any diet that includes a large number of carbohydrates, including sugar, starches, bread, pasta, cookies, crackers, chips, fruit, and starchy vegetables like potatoes.

When carb cycling, you are encouraged to eat complex carbs like brown rice, whole wheat bread, whole grains, oatmeal, and higher-carb vegetables.

That doesn’t mean you can’t eat a few of your favorite treats, but it will be harder to burn fat if your food is processed.

What Are the Benefits of Carb Cycling?

There are several benefits of carb cycling, including:

  • improved fat loss
  • better muscle retention
  • more consistent energy
  • reduced stress on the digestive system
  • reduced risk of cravings and binge eating

a woman standing on a scale

Does carb cycling help you lose weight?

Yes, carb cycling can help you get to a healthy body weight. This is because it helps to regulate insulin levels and promotes a healthy balance of hormones in the body. When insulin levels are balanced, the body is better able to burn fat for energy.

In addition, carb cycling can help to reduce water retention. This is because when carbs are cycled, the body alternates between retaining water and burning it off. By reducing the amount of water the body retains, carb cycling can help you lose weight more quickly.

Is carb cycling good for you?

Yes, carb cycling is good for you. This is because it helps to balance hormones, regulate insulin levels, and promote a healthy metabolism. This can all result in burning calories and weight loss.

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How do you carb cycle?

The best way to carb cycle is to start with a low-carb day. This means eating foods that are low in carbs, such as lean protein, vegetables, and healthy fats. Then, gradually increase your carb intake on subsequent days.

I have been using my Lumen to tell me when I need low carb days or high carb days. It reads the CO2 in your breath to learn about your body’s ability to burn carbs.

From there, it assigns you a score so you know when you need to eat high carb or low carb. And you will know exactly what macros you need to eat each day (protein, carbs, fat).

There is no carb cycling diet you have to stick to. You can choose what you eat as long as you stick to the macros.

This is what makes carb cycling different from other diets. You don’t have to count your calorie intake.

Is this the same as the ketogenic diet?

No, it’s not. Carb cycling goes from low carb to high carb days. Keto would be all low carb. While there are some days that would qualify as keto, not all of them are.

Cycling to a high carb diet allows you to have a “cheat meal” and eat some of your favorite foods. Alternating high carb and low carb helps to improve your metabolism. This can help you burn body fat.

While I’ve been using Lumen for carb cycling, I have noticed that my protein intake is generally higher and my fat intake is generally lower.

Carb cycling works so simply with Lumen because I don’t need to think about what to eat which day. Lumen decides if I’m having a high carb day or low carb. Then, I just choose the foods to meet my macros.

If you’d like to better understand why you’re not losing weight and learn the skills you need to take the pounds off, check out Lumen and get started with carb cycling.

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